Theology of the Body and the Role of Our Lady in Discernment


St. John Paul II had a great relationship with Mary, the Mother of God.  It is said that when his earthly mother passed away when he was 9; he went to Our Lady of Czestochowa and proclaimed her to be his mother now.  This relationship grew to be one of the most important relationships in John Paul’s life.  His papal motto of Totus Tuus (Total Yours) is meant to be a surrender to Mary.

When I am advising young men and women about discernment and asking Jesus where He is calling them, I always advise strengthening a relationship to Mary.  A relationship with Mary can help hear Christ’s call and give the courage to answer. The final words in scripture of Mary, Mother of Jesus, are “do whatever he tells you.” (Jn 2:5)  Mary wants us to follow her son and most of all she can be a path to know Jesus in a more intimate way.

Getting to know Mary through the Theology of the Body may seem hard when you do a word search and rarely see St. John Paul II refer to her in those talks.  However, we know that she is ever present in the life and work of the holy pontiff.  Father Don Calloway wrote an excellent article[1] in regards to finding Mary in Theology of the Body.  In this article, Father Calloway points out different Marian dogmas and how they relate to the Theology of the Body.


The Immaculate Conception: The Body is a Gift.

Father Calloway states “Mary shows us how to accept the gift of our embodiedness.”  Mary receives the gift of the Immaculate Conception not just in her soul, but also in her body.  She then shows how to give her body over and gift it to the whole world.  She responds with her fiat (her yes) to the angel.  The priest is to hand himself over, body and soul, to God and His Church.  During the ordination, the priest lies prostate surrendering his life to his bride the Church.  Mary’s words to the Angel Gabriel, “May it be done to me according to your word[2]” are repeated in the heart of the priest at ordination and every day after.

A priest receives a phone call in the middle of the night to anoint a young man who has been in a car accident.  The priest hands over his desire to sleep to help the other.  When the priest is walking out the hospital, a joy filled parishioner stops him.  “Father, my wife and I just had a baby!  Can you come bless my family?”  The joys and sorrows of life are met with the “yes” of the priest.


Perpetual Virginity: The Body is Nuptial.

The body is nuptial, because it is meant to be given to another.  This can be lived out in marriage in spousal love or in consecrating oneself to Jesus and His Church.  The perpetual virginity of Mary show her spousal love to the Holy Spirit and to Jesus and His Church. “This notion of giving oneself away in self-possession is exactly what the dogma of Mary’s perpetual virginity teaches us about the human body.”[3]

The relationship between a Catholic Priest and his ministry is intimate.  An intimate relationship is best described by the phrase “in to me you see.”  The priest sees into the people he ministers too.  Be it the young couple helps prepare for marriage or the old couple as one is on their death bed.  He shares in these moments as an intimate friend. The priest is fed and grows in his spiritual life because of these relationships.


Theotokos: The Body is Fruitful.

Mary is the mother of Jesus who is fully human and fully divine.  This concludes that Mary is the Mother of God.  All bodies are meant to be fruitful, physically by procreation or by spiritual fruitfulness.  Mary, the mother of God is fruitful in both ways.  She bears a son, Jesus and is the spiritual mother to the whole Church.

A priest in his sacramental and pastoral life, brings the Holy Spirit and healing.  He is the humble worker in the Lord’s vineyard.  The priest lives to bring in the harvest to the Lord.  He may be called to till the ground, fertilize the ground, plant the seed or harvest the seed.  Yet, his life is fed with the beauty of Lord’s garden.



Assumption: The Body is Essential.

The dogma of Mary’s assumption into heaven, body and soul, gives the Christian believer the hope of joining her in heaven adoring God (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit).  This dogma also shows the essentialness of the body.  Mary’s soul and body are not separated but both are in heaven.  “Mary’s assumption teaches us … God made the body good and desires it to be with Him in heaven.”[4]

Mary, the new Eve, shows us that God’s plan of salvation teaches us that His love for us is for love of body and soul.  In the creed, the faithful recite, “I believe in the resurrection of the body.”  This Church teaching states that not just our souls go to heaven, but even our mortal flesh.  Just as Christ is risen, so shall we rise on the last day.  The dogma of the Assumption, helps us to receive the hope and faith of the resurrection.  God wants to redeem us, body and soul.  Our body is redeemable.  Our soul is redeemable.  The Father loves us!

Mary wants to point all of us to her son, her dogmas about her can also teach us about the Theology of the Body.  Hence, John Paul’s surrender to Mary (Totus Tuus) is living out the body as gift, nuptial, fruitful and essential.

St. John Paul teaches us, as well, to learn Jesus through Mary.  “This school of Mary is all the more effective if we consider that she teaches by obtaining for us in abundance the gifts of the Holy Spirit, even as she offers us the incomparable example of her own ‘pilgrimage of faith’.  As we contemplate each mystery of her Son’s life, she invites us to do as she did at the Annunciation: to ask humbly the questions which open us to the light, in order to end with the obedience of faith: ‘Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word’ (Lk 1:38).”[5]


The story of Joseph

As a young professional, Joseph started to pray the Angelus three times a day.  The Angelus is a prayer reflecting on Mary at the Annunciation.  His thought was that this simple prayer would help him to live out his faith in his professional life.  As this prayer became a habit, Joseph noticed a question in his own heart.  The Holy Spirit was asking; “When are you going to say yes, like Mary did?”  Joseph was distressed, but continued the habit of praying the Angelus.  In a quiet moment, he told Mary that he would call the vocation director before the end of the month.  On the 31st of the month, Joseph made the call and finally said “yes,” as Mary did.  Joseph noticed Mary and the Holy Spirit working in his heart to find his vocation.  The simple prayer and building a relationship with Mary, gave Joseph the courage and fortitude to follow the call of Christ.   Joseph now hopes to be the simple servant of Christ to whomever God places in his life.  He desires to live out the final words of Mary in the Gospel “Do whatever He tells you.”

The conclusion of Pastores Dabo Vobis (I will Give you Shepherds), St. John Paul calls priests to “have an ever firmer and more tender devotion to the Virgin Mary and show it by imitating her virtues and praying to her often.”[6]  He then concludes with a prayer to Mary, Mother of Priests.

As one discerns the call of Jesus in life, keeping Mary and growing in a deeper relationship with her will only help fulfil the call Christ has for you.

Suggestions to grow in relationship with Mary is to pray the Rosary daily and learn about the dogmas mentioned above. Many of the young people I work with also consecrate their life to Mary.  Father Michael Gaitley, MIC has a good book to help consecrate oneself to Mary.  “33 Days to Morning Glory” talks about Louis de Montfort, Maximillian Kolbe, Mother Theresa of Calcutta and John Paul’s relationships with Mary.

Mary will point you to her Son, Jesus.  Build your relationship with her daily; you will grow closer to Him.

[1] Theology of the Body and Marian Dogmas: Fr. Donald H. Calloway, M.I.C., S.T.L. in The Virgin Mary and Theology of the Body. Edited by Donald H. Calloway. Ascension Press 2005.

[2] Luke 1:38

[3] TOB Ibd 19-20.

[4] Lbd 22

[5] John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae: paragraph 14

[6] PDV 82

To Download a PDF Version of this reflection, Click Here: TOB & Our Lady

Fr. Joe Pins was ordained a priest in 2006 for the Diocese of Des Moines. He has served parishes in three cities in the Dioceses before becoming the vocations director and chaplain of the St. Thomas More Center in Des Moines in 2012.  Father Pins has attended various courses at the Theology of the Body Institute and has served as a course chaplain.


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